The History of the City of Perry Fire Department
Created by Calvin L. Broom, Firefighter
Edited by Chief Parker
It is said that the first volunteer department was formed in 1910 and that it had seven members. They were Thomas Mason Sr., Asa Woodard, Lott Townsley, Rudolf Shilling, Fred Shilling, Rupert Day, and Miller Day.
If the Bell was sounded alerting the men of a fire, Mr. Mason vividly recalled “they would have to go to the station and pull the “Golden Hose Wheel” to the hydrant closest to the fire”. The city did not have adequate water supply so the primary objective for the firemen was to wet down the surrounding buildings and thus impede the fires spread (A Land So Dedicated).
In 1911, fire brigade volunteers included Asa Woodard, Rupert Clay, Clyde Day, Eby Holtzclaw, Lott Townlsey, Sam Hemmingway, Ralph Miller, Miller Edwards, Harper Short, Carey Andrew, Gordon Rogers, Fred Shilling, and Rudolph Shilling.
In 1933, the department was moved along with the city hall into the Muse Building, which was previously occupied by Houston Hardware Company. The building was remodeled to house the fire truck in one half of it.
In 1940, during the January City Council meeting plans were made to give Perry more adequate fire protection. The department was reorganized, new equipment bought, and all existing equipment ordered completely reconditioned. A regular volunteer department was organized with Clifford Grimes as Fire Chief, Cecil Moody as First Assistant Fire Chief, and E.F. Bellflower as Second Assistant Fire Chief. Police Chief H.D. Gordy who was acting Fire Chief was relieved of duties and allowed to resume duties as Police Chief.
The city was divided into four zones with a system of signals to facilitate locating fires when the Bell was sounded. Rubber coats and helmets were ordered for the men. Drills were started for them to learn more about handling situations and to be uniformed when they arrived at the fire scene. For six weeks prior to this decision the department had several fires which focused the attention of the city on the necessity of improving the department.
In 1943, under the leadership of Chief Cecil Moody and the city council, the department was brought up to full strength and reorganized into a highly efficient department. They had drills so that the men could learn the many tasks that had to be done on the fire ground. The men that volunteered their time were Pete Henderson, Bill Best, W.R. Hardy, E.F. Bellflower, Aldine Lasseter, John Heller, Cap Arnold, Parker Riser, and Henry Mathews. Each man was assigned to special duties.
In 1947, Sirah Lawhorn started with the department and within a short time was promoted to Fire Chief. Chief Lawhorn led the department through many fires and other missions that the department was called to do.
In 1953, the department moved to Commerce Street along with the city hall into the new building that was built. The department purchased its third fire truck, a 1952 Peter Pirsch Pumper on a Ford F-7 Chassis, with a 750 GPM- 2 stage pump, a 500-gallon tank, and the equipment that was needed to supply it. (Costing $9,200)
In 1963, the department hired its first full-time firemen. They were L.B. Moody, and Bobby Taylor, rotating shifts of twenty-four hours on duty and twenty-four hours off duty. Then several months later Smokey Wells replaced Bobby Taylor. The city still counted on the volunteers. The department was moved to Washington Street into the new Municipal Building. The department purchased its fourth fire truck, a 1962 Peter Pirsch on a Ford C-800 Chassis, with a 750 GPM- 2 stage pump, a 500-gallon tank, and the equipment that was needed to supply it. (costing $19,900)
New hiring’s continued with Marion Fuller (’66), Rodger Crumpton (’68), Harris McIntyre (’69), and Earl Green and Johnny Langston (’70). Sirah Lawhorn became the first full-time Fire Chief of Department in 1970.
In 1972, the department purchased its fifth fire truck which was a Peter Pirsch on a Ford C-800 chassis, with a 1,000 GPM- 2 stage pump, a 500-gallon tank, and the equipment needed to supply it. (Costing $23,000)
Others hired included: Thomas Arnold (’73), Randy Bozeman (’74), Gary Hamlin (’75), as well as Danny Evans and Wayne Hall (’77).
Chief Sirah Lawhorn retired in 1980, and Gary Hamlin became the second full-time Fire Chief, and the youngest Fire Chief in the State of Georgia at the age of twenty-four. Hiring’s continued with Joe Boone (‘80), William Hudson and Mark Borden (’81), Doug Straka and Berry Kaigler (’82), Charlie Green and Julias James (’83).
In 1984, Chief Hamlin initiated the First Responder program. Perry Fire Department became the first fire department in all of Houston County to be trained and assist on medical calls. This called for more certification training and a lot of time from the firefighters, but it enabled the department to better serve the citizens of Perry, giving them some sort of medical treatment until an ambulance could arrive. This created a chain reaction throughout all of Houston County. Soon the Houston County Fire Department would follow and then years later the Warner Robins Fire Department would also follow the example of the Perry Fire Department.
Curtis Lindsey and Ron Frazier were hired in 1986.
In 1989, the department purchased its first mini-pumper/rescue truck, a American Eagle on a Ford F-350 chassis, with a 250 GPM pump, 250-gallon tank. The Jaws of Life (Hurst) equipment was also purchased to go on this truck. (Costing $45,000)
Newly hired employees included Calvin Broom and Earl Nelson (’90), and Kelvin Ross (’91).
In 1991, the Houston County Emergency Services E-911 went on line throughout the county.
1992 included the department purchasing its sixth fire truck, a KME on a custom chassis, with a 1250 GPM-single stage pump, 750-gallon tank. (Costing $182,000) Mark Barron and Robby Rowell became the twenty-sixth and twenty-seventh firefighters hired.
In 1996, Chief Hamlin along with city businessman Riley Young started a fund-raiser in order to purchase the department a Cairns I.R.I.S. system. This was a helmet mounted thermal (infrared) imaging system costing $25,000 that enabled firefighters to see in a smoke-filled environment. Without this equipment, firefighters could barely see his hand “6” inches in front of his face. It was stated: “if this unit helps in the saving of only one life, then at that time it will have paid for itself”.
In 1997, the department purchased its first aerial truck. This being the first aerial fire truck in Houston County. It being a 75 ft. aerial truck with a water way, a 1500 GPM- two stage pump, and a 300-gallontank. It was delivered on March 16, 1997, with fireman and family there to see it pull into the station. (Costing $388,000)
New hiring’s included Scott Dorman and Ephraim Wheeler (’98), Kevin Noles, Billy Gordon, and Joe Boone (’99).
Fire Chief Hamlin retired in 2004 and Freddy Howell from Waycross Fire was named as Fire Chief. Chief Howell resigned in 2006 and the Fire Department was reorganized under the City of Perry Department of Public Safety. Public Safety Director George Potter hired Interim Chief Frank Finnell to oversee the Fire Department.
Director Potter hired Chief Joel Gray in September 2006. The department hired new people and doubled in size, station 2 was built on donated land by the Davis family…Chief Gray Retired in May of 2016.
Lee Parker was hired as Fire Chief in October, 2016.